Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

‘Headline Skimmers’: a growing culture in Africa

Africa today has been ravaged by a poor reading culture where very few persons will dedicate time to reading a book to the end. Rather, most people are good at flipping pages and reading only areas which catch their attention. This practice is, however, the same in the media scenario where most often people focus on the headline of articles without trying to find out more. It is a common practice in some countries like Cameroon and Ivory Coast to see people crowded around newspaper kiosks just for the headlines. We try to review this phenomenon while at the same time analyzing the reasons why people engage in such practices and its possible consequences.

Africans in most cases give very little time into following the news more in-depth, as very few of them read past the headline. Usually, they read the headline and determine the rest of the story. Headline skimmers constitute a group of persons who most often crowd around newspaper kiosks to read the daily headlines. In a country like Cameroon, it is very common to find people gathered around kiosks and some exchanging ideas and arguing over an information they read from the headline of a paper. What becomes very amusing sometimes is the fact that none of the people discussing has read past the headlines of the story.

However, it is very true that headline skimmers are very informed about the happenings in the country, but it is again very tricky because some of them end up not getting the right information. Most of them get it wrong because they do not understand that a headline is sometimes very misleading and drawing conclusions from them may not be the right thing to do. Sometimes too the headlines are ironic and can be fully understood when the entire content is read.

Headline skimming kills content creators

Journalists and newspaper vendors suffer enormously from this phenomenon as they only get to make money when they sell their newspapers. Most of the people who visit kiosks for headlines hardly leave with a copy of a newspaper. Their primary objectives remain to feed themselves with what various newspapers headlines say while they have little or no interest in the content of the story. Hence, they leave immediately they are satisfied scanning through all the headlines without buying a single copy.

However, it is true that a good number of such people would love to have a copy of the paper, but most often they are faced with financial difficulties as most of those involved in such practices are the average citizens. A good way to reduce this practice is to subsidize the cost of newspapers thereby making it affordable for the average citizens. Because gathering around kiosks only shows the growing interest people have to access information. This will go a long way to ensure that people receive and share the right information and kill all possibilities for doubts and rumors which can destabilize the economy.

AFRIC Editorial Article.

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